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The Cascadia Bioregion encompasses all or portions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, British Columbia, and Alberta. The Cascadia Bioregion includes the entire watershed of the Columbia River (as far as the Continental Divide), as well as the Cascade Range from Northern California well into Canada.

As a coastal state, it is also a major gateway for trade to and from North America, and the the region has a rich maritime tradition. Together, Cascadia has the largest civilian ferry fleet in the world, holds nine of eleven deep water ports and dry-dock facilities on the West Coast of the United States and Canada, and is considered the ‘Thin Green Line’ between ecologically destructive resource extraction within the North America interior and heavily fossil fuel dependent economics on the other side of the pacific, as well as a ‘Gateway to Asia’ for inter-global supply of consumer goods and services.

While Cascadia generates a large percentage of its own energy via renewable resources, the area remains a heavily resource extraction dependent area, and provides large percentages of North American timber, minerals and mined resources for construction materials.

(PORTLAND, OR) — Of the country’s 20 largest electric regions, the Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) hydropower-based system resulted in the Pacific Northwest region producing and using the cleanest energy in the nation. The Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a paper this month evaluating emissions from U.S. electricity providers. The report confirms the region’s clean-power credentials.

A Washington State Department of Commerce report shows that electricity sources for Mason PUD 3 customers are 98% carbon-free.

Eighty-eight percent of the power purchased by PUD 3 for its customers comes from renewable sources: hydroelectricity and wind.

Because of clean, renewable hydropower from the Columbia River system, public utilities in Washington State have a much greener mix of energy sources than other power providers in the Pacific Northwest or the rest of the United States.

“Hydropower is a 24/7 clean renewable that keeps our homes and businesses humming around the clock,” said Scott Simms, executive director of the Public Power Council. “We now have verifiable data confirming that BPA’s renewable fleet is the backbone of the nation’s least carbon-intense electricity area among large electricity suppliers,”

The Public Power Council represents the interests of non-profit, consumer-owned utilities that purchase most of the electricity sold by BPA. Together, these utilities serve millions of residents in large and small communities across five Western states.

“This flexible, carbon-free resource meets today’s demand for clean energy. It also provides the platform for meeting the region’s future green-power goals by integrating intermittent renewable resources like wind and solar onto our grid,” said Simms. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that in addition to clean hydro, Oregon and Washington are home to over 6,500 MW of solar and wind generation. Roughly 45% of those resources are within BPA’s service territory. In addition, 1080 MWs of proposed solar and wind generation plan to locate in the BPA area.[1] 

Simms said this PNAS study couldn’t come out at a more important time, as the federal government will soon release its draft analysis on how the Columbia River Basin should be operated in the future. “We can’t look at the river myopically. PPC members are committed to a successful fish mitigation plan and shouldering our fair share of the associated financial responsibility. However, fish runs will not thrive if we don’t address climate change. The federal hydro system must be an integral element of any climate plan. The low carbon aspect of BPA’s portfolio should be properly considered in the context of the government’s review. This PNAS report helps, especially as global carbon concerns continue to mount.”

What “100% clean” means

The current electricity mix in Washington state is very clean already. Roughly two-thirds of Washington’s electricity comes from hydropower, but there’s still a problem. Nearly a quarter of Washington’s electricity comes from fossil fuels. Electricity generated from coal and natural gas accounts for a fifth of Washington’s greenhouse gas emissions. With that in mind, 100% clean electricity means 100% carbon-free electricity. Carbon-free electricity will require ratcheting down the use of fossil fuels and eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. The state can do that by generating electricity from carbon-free resources (such as wind and solar) or reducing demand for electricity by investing in energy efficiency.

Roughly two-thirds of the state’s electricity comes from hydropower, but a quarter still comes from fossil fuels, namely coal and natural gas. Data is for 2017 from the Washington State Department of Commerce.

The transition will be easier for some electric utilities than for others. For example, Puget Sound Energy, Washington’s biggest utility, gets almost 60% of its electricity from coal and natural gas. Replacing all that electricity with energy from carbon-free sources will require a continued shift in investments.

On the other hand, some utilities, such as Seattle City Light and Tacoma Power, already get more than 95% of their electricity from carbon-free sources. These utilities will have less work to do to reach 100% carbon-free electricity. Instead, they will serve as examples, demonstrating that 100% carbon-free electricity is well within reach.

The clean economy

Transitioning to 100% clean electricity will have countless benefits, especially for Washington’s economy.

While the most common objection is that transitioning to 100% carbon-free electricity will cost too much, that is simply not true. Renewable energy from wind and solar is often cheaper than energy from natural gas and coal. Financially speaking, renewable energy just makes sense. To demonstrate this further, a study conducted for the Washington governor’s office showed that rapidly decarbonizing all sectors of Washington’s economy (not just the electricity sector, but also transportation, industry, etc.) could be achieved at reasonable cost. It’s very clear: 100% carbon-free electricity will not break the bank.

As Washington invests in new energy infrastructure – building wind turbines, solar farms, energy storage and transmission lines – many jobs will be created in the process. Research indicates that investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency create three times more jobs than investments in fossil fuel infrastructure. Furthermore, jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency are good jobs, built to last.

In short, working towards 100% clean electricity won’t cost too much, and it will bring more good jobs to Washington state.

Why should Washington do this in the first place?

Workers construct massive wind turbine in Colorado. Photo: US Department of Energy

If for some reason you’re not convinced by the creation of good jobs in Washington, there’s another important reason to make the transition to 100% carbon-free electricity: preventing climate change.

Climate change is already affecting Washington in numerous ways. For example, climate change is increasing the risk of record-breaking wildfires like those that have blanketed the state in smoke the past few summers, and it has acidified the ocean, threatening Washington’s shellfish industry. Unfortunately, this may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Carlton Complex Fire in north central Washington. Photo: US National Guard

This past year we saw a number of sobering new reports on climate change, including the Fourth National Climate Assessment and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report. These reports set off alarm bells, demonstrating the urgency of reducing our global warming emissions fast.

Transitioning to 100% carbon-free electricity in Washington would significantly reduce the state’s global warming emissions, and not a moment too soon.

Energy Independence

Carbon Negative

Smart Power Grids

A far-reaching vision for the future of the electric grid is emerging at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

In the past few years, this vision has grown from a theory on whiteboards to real-power experiments on lab hardware.

It’s called “Autonomous Energy Grids” (AEG), an effort to ensure the grid of the future can manage a growing base of intelligent energy devices, variable renewable energy, and advanced controls.

“The future grid will be much more distributed and too complex to control with today’s techniques and technologies,” said Benjamin Kroposki, director of NREL’s Power Systems Engineering Center. “We need a path to get there—to reach the potential of all these new technologies integrating into the power system.”

The AEG effort envisions a self-driving power system—a very “aware” network of technologies and distributed controls that work together to efficiently match bi-directional energy supply to energy demand. This is a hard pivot from today’s system, in which centralized control is used to manage one-way electricity flows to consumers along power lines that spoke out from central generators.

Instead, AEG grids are composed within one another, like a fractalized group of microgrids. Sections, or “cells” of AEG use pervasive communication and controllability to continually pursue their best operating conditions, which adjust to the temperament of customer demand, available generation, and pricing.

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“Environment is the surrounding in which we live. There is a balanced natural cycle exists between environment and lives of human beings, plants and animals. All the human actions in this modern world directly impact the whole ecosystem. Let’s save it!”

Mark Adams

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We Fight for Justice in Medical Systems

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